Friday, July 11, 2014

A response to that nasty East Jerusalem op-ed in the New York Times

I'm riding out this round of Israeli-Gaza violence without blogging, as a good civil servant should. In the midst of it, however,the New York Times saw fit to publish a problematic op-ed by one Rula Salameh, a Palestinian woman from Beit Haninah, which is in north Jerusalem but for purposes of political correctness is called East Jerusalem. Since Jerusalem is one of my pet interests, and this op-ed has been causing quite a bit of excitement on Twitter, here's a quick rebuttal.

Salameh makes three points. One, Israeli immigration policy sucks. Two, she's afraid for her 17-year-old son Memo, ever since that ghastly murder of their neighbor, 17-year-old Muhammad Abu Khdeir. Third, Israeli policy in Jerusalem is geared to harm Palestinians.

I see no need to relate to the immigration issue. The New York Times has twice endorsed President Obama, and his administration has deported more than 2 million folks from the US for not being citizens, including people who have lived there for decades and have no potential center of life elsewhere; hundreds of Africans have died just this month in futile attempts to get in to Europe. Immigration policies are tricky everywhere.

I can emphasize with Salameh's fear for her son. I was once in Washington DC with three children just about the time a crazy sniper was shooting down people at gas stations, and it wasn't fun, even tho the statistical chances of being hit were small. More important, all my three children went thru their adolescence in a Jerusalem where people were routinely blown to death on buses, in supermarkets, sitting in cafes or walking down the street. We did our best to shuttle them everywhere by car, but being teenagers they weren't keen on that so mostly we lived thru the lethal roulette Salameh's countrymen were playing with us, and we hoped for the best and went to the ocasional funeral. It was trying, so I can empathize with her fear.

Tho, come to think of it, she was raising her kid at the exact same time about two miles away, and there was never any danger, absolutely none, in her neighborhood. Only had she taken him into the Jewish parts of town would she have had anything to fear... from her own people, not from us, who were blowing up whoever was there.

Which brings me to the enormous element of the story she somehow forgot to tell. Since the end of the 2nd Intifada, Jerusalem has become ever more a place that Arabs walk in free of fear. Thousands of them have moved into the Jewish neighborhoods, and tens of thousands enter the Jewish parts daily: they work there, study there, play there, consume there, freely mingling amongst the Jews, noticed only if they choose to wear recognizably Muslim garb - which many do, unmolested. The city hasn't yet grown together, but it's clearly on the way, with one major exception: the Jews still mostly don't go into the Arab neighborhoods. The Old city, yes, along the edges, yes, but you won't find many Jewish teenagers rambling thru the Arab neighborhoods. Whether it's too dangerous, or they only fear it's too dangerous, is an interesting question I don't fully know the answer to.

Finally, Salameh's third point, about Israeli policies. They've been a mixed bag these past 47 years. Indeed, Israel has not invested adequate public resources in the Arab parts of Jerusalem. This is a fact, though the present mayor, Nir Barkat, is trying to rectify things, and this didn't interfere with his re-election bid last year. (The Arabs didn't vote for him). On the other hand, the Palestinians in Jerusalem enjoy a higher standard of living, including national health insurance, Jerusalem's high level medical infrastructure, social security, full access to colleges and the university, and so on and on. Israeli policy in Jerusalem is a mixed bag. It wold have been honest of Salameh to mention this.

Yes, there was one ghastly murder of a Palestinian teenager, and his murderers are already under arrest (three of them, the other three having been sent home for not having been involved). In response, Arab youth torched the light-rail train that goes thru Beit Haninah (Salameh forgot to mention this) and violently rioted for a few days before calming down. Soon the rails will be fixed and the evil Israeli tram line will return to Beit Haninnah. I have no doubt Salameh's son is already back in the Jewish parts of town, returneg safely home each evening. He needs to be careful, however, if the sirens go off, bacause the Hamas rockets from Gaza don't ask for identity cards.


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joseph said...

FTI Juan Cole is peddling the four maps on his blog again.